Tragic Kerry plant worker Matthew Foley’s sons deliver heartbreaking eulogy at funeral

Matthew died after sustaining serious burn injuries in an accident at the Kerry Ingredients plant in Listowel.

The late Matthew Foley

The Kerry Ingredients plant in Listowel where the fatal accident occured. Photo by Domnick Walsh


AN extraordinary picture of a deeply-loving family man full of humour and dedication to his loved one’s needs was laid bare by the sons of Matthew Foley in the course of a heartbreaking eulogy at his Funeral Mass.

Mr Foley (60), who died after sustaining serious burn injuries in an accident at the Kerry Ingredients plant in Listowel on Monday, February 6, was, his son Diarmuid told mourners, the ‘glue binding us all’.

The late Listowel native died at Cork University Hospital little more than a day after the desperate accident at the plant in Tanavalla where he had worked for over 40 years.

There was a massive outpouring of grief in Listowel and beyond with a huge attendance at the funeral in St Mary’s Church in Listowel celebrated by Parish Priest Canon Declan O’Connor.

For all the tragedy and heartbreak of their father’s loss, his sons communicated how the previous 12 months had been among the happiest of their father’s life.

He had celebrated his 60th birthday with a surprise party in John B Keane’s bar and was happily looking forward alongside his beloved wife Eileen to witnessing two of his children getting married.

Indeed, the family’s last memory of Matthew was of him dancing in the family home before departing for his final, fateful shift at the food-processing industry.

Diarmuid also thanked the first responders at the scene by name for giving their father the vital assistance that allowed him that vital, extra day of life.

Canon O’Connor explained the gifts offered up at the Requiem Mass as symbols of Mr Foley’s abiding passions.

“We begin with the Kerry jersey. He loved his GAA,” Canon O’Connor said, saying he loved bringing his sons to their football games and following Kerry in the championship each year.

“The farmer’s hat represents his love of farming, one of the pasttimes he enjoyed the most. This was the cap he wore on his last weekend when he introduced his beloved grandson Aaron to the farm...and it also sympbolises his dedicated work ethic. He could be found on the farm in hail, rain or snow.

“Turf...the turf represents the yearly pilgrimage to the bog, a long-standing tradition in the Foley family. Many a great day was spent there with his family, and it also symbolises Matt’s desire to provide for those he loved.”

The final of the four offerings was a symbol of his deep love of his home.

“The Coolkearagh soil...This represents Matt’s home which was very close to his heart.” Indeed, the earth had been taken from the meadow which was his favourite place in the whole farm.

“Everybody I’ve met over the past few days, they all spoke so highly of Matt, a true Listowel man who spent all his life living locally here,” Canon O’Connor said in his homily, imparting some of the late Coolkearagh man’s background:

“Born to his parents Matthew Foley and Maureen Madden of Coolkearagh, he went to primary school in Coolard and then on here to St Michael’s College and he worked hard all his life.

"He [would go] working immediately after school, be it on the farm at home with his brothers Thomas and the rest of the family.

" He joined Kerry Group in 1982 and he worked there ever since, and gave tremendous service to the factory.”

“He met and married Eileen Daly from Ballymacelligott, and they set up their home in Woodford, raised their three children Diarmuid, Lorraine and Mark. Very devoted to them always, he did everything he could for them. Always giving.

The Kerry Ingredients plant in Listowel where the fatal accident occured. Photo by Domnick Walsh

“He loved not only his immediate family but also his extended family, and I know that his grandson Aaron brought him much joy,” Canon O’Connor said.

His sons addressed the mourners in an emotional eulogy that created a remarkable portrait of their beloved father.

“Myself and my brother Mark are here to represent the family, to give you a full insight into what dad meant to us and how much of an icon he was to all of us.” Diarmuid began, going on to say:

“Matt used to joke ‘no one will miss me or care about me when I’m gone’. Well look at the crowd here today Matt.

“He would be so embarrassed and chuffed with the turnout and outpouring of love and support from everyone so far and wide over the week.”

“Matt has been a great son, brother, husband and father to all of us over the years.

“His kindness and willingness to help anyone in need was much appreciated by everyone he met and encountered.

“I’ve seen him grow so much over the years, since I was young and as Lorraine and Mark entered our family. I’ve seen him grow so much as a father and partner with each challenge that came the family’s way.

“There isn’t anything that dad wouldn’t do for us all, he was so loving and caring to his wider family on all sides, to his Kerry Ingredients work colleagues and large community oif friends,” Diarmuid said.

“We have all learned so much from him and looked up to him over the years. We take such inspiration from his hard work and energy, his strong family ethos, his caring nature and his willingness to forgive along with his great sense of humour and hop ball...

“For us as a family he was the glue binding us all. Similarly with his own family out at home, with Thomas and his brothers on the farm, which was one of the places he was most happy. And all the Foley family really appreciate the support he’s been to the farm in Coolkearagh over the years...

“We are so proud of our dad in so many ways.

"What he has done for us over the years, always pushing us to be our best, being there to pick us back up after setbacks, being here for the difficult moments the family has gone through, listening to us without judgement, he’s a super dad and friend to have. He cares so much about us all and more.

"He has looked after us so well and set us up for success.”

Mark also said it was an honour to speak for his father: “It’s an honour for me to be up here talking about my dad. What a man. The Kerry spirit he has he ingrained in all of us since day one. The Foley spirit as he calls it. Never giving up, they won’t break me.”

Mark recalled numerous memories, from his father caving in at a horse fair to his demands for a pony aged six or seven, to the trip to the last All-Ireland when Matthew beheld the victory with tears in his eyes.

“He had a big birthday last year and he thought we were just going for dinner the five of us, Carla and Mike. That was fine anyway after the meal we said we might as well head up to John B’ we were walking up the town he turned to us and said ‘hai, don’t be telling anyone now I’m 60. I’ll never hear the end of it.

“Little did he know we had organised a bit of a surprise get-together for his family. It was one of the proudest moments when his eyes lit up to see everyone inside there.”

Diarmuid also paid special tribute to the emergency personnel on the scene: “I would like to give a sincere special mention to the first responders to Matt on Monday night. Tom, Maurice, Garry and John, your quick and amazing rapid response and care...we’re forever grateful.

"We really appreciate the time that this gave us to be with Matt this week...Without your actions this wouldn’t have been possible.”

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